Everyone is familiar with the disaster that was Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress earlier this month—which, coordinated with the Republican leadership and executed behind President Barack Obama’s back, strained relations between the United States and Israel.
As reported in the latest issue of Newsweek in the article “Black Power In Washington,” members of the Congressional Black Caucus took particular affront to Netanyahu’s address, in part because some in the caucus made up of Black lawmakers believed its unprecedented audacity was particularly disrespectful to America’s first Black president. In fact, 57 Democrats—including most Black lawmakers—stayed away from the Israeli leader’s March 3 speech in protest.
James Clyburn, a long-standing member of the CBC, and Democratic Congressman from South Carolina, said that there was an “unmistakable racial overtone to Netanyahu’s offense.” Newsweek reports:
…[F]or black Democrats like Clyburn, it was Netanyahu’s coded election-day warning that Israel’s Arab citizens were headed to the polls “in droves” to vote him out of office that pushed them from anger to outrage. Netanyahu later apologized for his remark, but his contrition appeared to have no effect on Clyburn and company. “The Congressional Black Caucus is gone,” a Democratic congressional aide told Newsweek, referring to its support for Israel under Netanyahu.
But more than being offended, the CBC actually may have the power in numbers to block Netanyahu’s objective, which was to dismantle President Obama’s negotiations with Iran, which Israel feels is dangerously close to developing nuclear capability.
Assuming all of the House’s 247 Republicans vote to override an Obama veto, they would still need at least 40 Democrats to join them. The Congressional Black Caucus, most of whom don’t rely on pro-Israel campaign donations, has 46 members, the vast majority of whom would fiercely defend Obama’s signature foreign policy effort. Joining them: at least two dozen white progressive Democrats who also would rally to prevent a veto override.
It looks like some overstepped bounds cannot be backtracked so easily.
Says Newsweek: “There was a time before Netanyahu’s speech when many members of the Congressional Black Caucus, steeped in Old Testament messages from Negro spirituals, saw their own reflection in Israel’s struggle. But after Netanyahu’s broadsides against Obama’s diplomacy and his remarks about Israeli Arabs, those days appear to be over. As one Democratic aide put it: “It’s going to be very difficult to bring them back.”
Read more of “Black Power In Washington” here.